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Book Stories - Updated (5 of 5)
This is the fifth article in the Grapevine's series by authors
of personal histories in the Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous.
The Big Book was published in 1939; a revised, enlarged
version came out in 1955. Now, the author of "The Career
Officer," page 523 in the revised edition, reports
on thirteen more years of sobriety in Ireland, where he
first found AA twenty-one years ago.
the Program in All Our Affairs
© The A.A.
Grapevine, Inc., March 1968
than twelve years have passed since I ended my story in
the Big Book with the words "AA has made me very happy."
Nothing that has happened since has made me change my mind.
The personal details of my life in between are unimportant
to anyone but myself. They have made me more grateful to
our founders and to the vast army of my comrades in Alcoholics
Anonymous. But the passage of time has given me more time
to think. And in the hope that what I write will not be
taken as the views of an Angry Old Man, I put forward some
of the things I think about.
No Man Is an Island, Thomas Merton wrote, "Tradition
is living and active, but Convention is passive and dead.
Tradition does not form us automatically; we have to work
to understand it. Convention is accepted passively, as a
matter of routine. It offers us only pretended ways of solving
the problems of living, a system of gestures and formalities
.... One goes through an act, without trying to understand
the meaning of it all, merely because everyone else does
does rule the lives of most of us. We do go through life
saying things and doing things because others do them and
say them. For instance, our Slogans. A slogan originally
was the war cry of the Scottish Highlands. Anyone who can
imagine a Highland chief urging his clan into battle with
slogans such as Think or Easy Does It cannot be very well
acquainted with the Scots. Yet for us, today, these AA slogans
are very useful pieces of advice. When we merely accept
them passively, as if brainwashed, that is lazy thinking,
and lazy thinking can become an important defect if applied
to our Steps.
Twelfth Step sets out that our founder members tried to
practice these principles in all their affairs. And still,
so many tell us that no one could possibly apply these principles
to his whole life. Is this not lazy thinking? Do some of
us just accept the Steps, to be "with it," without
working out what these principles really are for each of
own list of the principles I must practice consists of:
realism, with its frequent reminders of humility; faith,
anchored to some unchanging norm of goodness )God, as I
understand Him); atonement; patience; and thinking with
spiritual discipline. Can I honestly tell myself that the
practice (though not the finished accomplishment) of these
principles is impossible for me in all my affairs?
with advantage to ourselves -- especially at the start --
we might pay more attention to a few words in our purpose:
to solve our common problem. Our common problem is not,
as we quite naturally may have thought, just to stop drinking
period; we can all remember from our past the dreary, unending
sequence of stop, restart, stop, restart. The problem is
to remain securely abstinent permanently, albeit we work
at it one day at a time. Obviously, no one will stay dry
for long or willingly unless life without drink gives him
satisfaction. He can arrive at that satisfaction only by
learning to live with himself in peace, with his neighbor
in charity, and with his conscience in reasonable repose.
That, at least for me, is the guide motif of our Steps.
That is why it doesn't now seem right to me to go about
saying, "AA is a strange program," though I used
to fro a time. It no longer appears strange to me. It seems
the only sort of recovery program that could possibly work
for an alcoholic.
so many of us still tell a newcomer that he has only to
stay dry for today and to come to meetings. The meetings
won't practice the Steps for him, though they may and should
help him to persevere in his own practice of them. Even
the most meeting-minded member has to pass many hours of
the day when he is alone and must depend on his own inner
strength. These are the hours when practice of these principles
in all his affairs must cease to be a conventional, superficial
acceptance of them and become a matter of the heart and
find that over the years I have acquired a few mild dislikes.
The calling of the Higher Power, or God as we understand
Him, "The Man Upstairs" is one. The advertising
of some member as a star speaker and a special attraction
is another. (This isn't envy!) Can we not take every speaker,
silver-tongued or tongue-tied, at his real value of being
another alcoholic who is doing his best to stay recovered
himself and trying to help us to do the same? And I do somehow
feel from time to time that the increasing number of conventions
and the like, through the amount of preliminary organization
and work involved, are diverting time and effort from our
primary purpose. These distastes are, however, very slight
ripples in a sea of contentment.
the sense that I have been a member of our group for all
but five months of its more than twenty years' existence,
I suppose I rank as an old-timer. My group has always been
marvelously kind to me and tolerant of a personality that
has consistently demanded a great measure of tolerance.
Old-timers must often be a headache to younger members.
But the old-timer who has come to realize, as I hope I have
myself, that he is not God's gift to AA, but that AA is
God's gift to him, still has something good to give to his
group: the demonstration of his continued sobriety, his
active membership, and his gratitude for his recovery to
-- under God -- the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous.
prayer for my AA contemporaries and myself is that we may
to the end remain, in Tennyson's words, "Strong in
will / To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield."
M., Dublin, Ireland
© The A.A.
Grapevine, Inc., March 1968
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